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fault-in-our-stars-poster-largeWelcome to the Between the Lines Book Club, a book club especially for mothers and teen daughters! If this is your first time using Between the Lines, you might want to click here for an explanation and FAQs. The Dash-Board below will give you an overview with no spoilers — here’s the place to look if you are still deciding whether or not to read this book. The Proceed With Caution section will give you a list of general misfirings in the book that may help you decide whether or not this book would be positive reading for your teen. The Sara Says section contains spoilers, and it is my general take on the book. The Discussion Starters will hopefully enable you to have a Mother/Daughter Book Club with lots of rich conversation. Please let me know in the comments section what works/doesn’t work for you, and leave suggestions for future books you’d like to see here. Happy Reading! 🙂

– THE DASH-BOARD

The Fault in our Stars by John Green
– From amazon.com:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

Opens in theaters on June 6, 2014
TODAY Book Club pick
TIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012
#1 New York Times Bestseller
#1 Wall Street Journal Bestseller
#1 USA Today Bestseller
#1 International Bestseller
#1 Indie Bestseller

! PROCEED WITH CAUTION

! There is some occasional crass language, including swearing.
! There is a sexual encounter between two unmarried teens. Though it is not described explicity, it is portrayed in a positive light (starts on p. 205).
! Parents are generally viewed as being aloof, while the teens are the ones with the grounded, intelligent perspectives.
! The main characters are teens battling various forms of cancer, so death is a frequent discussing topic of the characters.

“ SARA SAYS

(This section contains spoilers. I’m assuming you have read the book at this point, so I won’t attempt to summarize or re-cap the whole book.)

The Fault in Our Stars was a quick read. Though the topic was upsetting, there was enough humor in the book to keep the tone as lighthearted as it could be for a book about kids with cancer.

I appreciated the description of trying to live life, knowing that it will be cut short. What was more difficult to digest was the characters’ complete lack of faith in anything beyond their own existence. They mocked any religious dialogue (though to be fair, it was intentionally cheesy dialogue) and sneered at the Christian version of an after-life.

The most dangerous aspect of this book was the fact that the intelligent characters (the teens) were the ones who had no faith in anything outside of themselves. Teens will identify with the wit and even some wisdom given by Hazel and the others. This book subtly reinforces the cultural stereotype that anyone with half a brain has discounted the existence of a Biblical God. Smart, scientific types are the highest moral creatures, and anyone who has faith must have the reasoning of a slug. The author clearly views faith as being akin to pretty but meaningless sayings cross-stitched while looking through smudged, rose-colored glasses.

This book may bring up questions of mortality in your teen. Some teens have not yet had much experience with death, and this book could be quite unsettling for them. No one likes to think about dying, and as the characters in the book are close in age to your teen, it could be disturbing. This could be a good opportunity to talk about death and resurrection, though, and most importantly, the Gospel. (Tim Challies’s review points out “the contrast between the bleakness of Hazel’s and Augustus’ reality and the hope and joy of the gospel.”)

? DISCUSSION STARTERS

(Since a wide range of girls will be participating, questions are written at differing levels of analysis. Feel free to highlight the questions that would be most appropriate for you and your daughter and best guide the discussion. Also, I try to match the questions with the level and depth of the book.)

General Questions

? Why is the book entitled The Fault in Our Stars?

? Because she has cancer, Hazel is part of a club she never wanted to join (the unofficial Kid With Cancer Club). Are you a part of any club you wish you didn’t belong to (Kid of Divorce, Kid With Special Needs Sibling, etc)?

? Isaac says he would rather be deaf than blind, but he doesn’t get that choice. Would you rather be deaf or blind? Why? ? In the hospital gift shop, the flowers are sprayed with Super Scent (p. 76) so they all smell uniformly pretty. Is the author trying to relay a metaphor here? If so, what could it be?

? Hazel says, “I kind of wanted to be little. I wanted to be like six years old or something” (p. 274). Do you ever wish you could go back to being little for a while? Do you have a favorite memory you would like to relive?

? Augustus says, “The world… is not a wish-granting factory,” which is another way of saying Life’s Not Fair. When have you most felt like life was unfair?

Faith Questions

? How are people of faith portrayed in this book (the support group leader, Augustus’s parents)?

? How do you think Hazel would answer the question, “Why do you have cancer?” How would you answer that question if she asked you? (this might be helpful to the discussion)

? How would you describe the faith of Augustus’s parents?

? What did Augustus mean when he said he feared oblivion (p.12, pg. 168)?

Family Questions

? How are parents viewed? What are some positive and negative aspects to Hazels parents?

? How are dads portrayed in this book? Is it positive or negative?

? What did you like/dislike about Hazel’s relationship with her parents?

? Sometimes when we are wounded, we believe lies that lead us to make vows, which lead to destructive behavior. Can you imagine some lies Peter Van Houten believed about his daughter’s passing that led him to behave as he did?

Life and Death Questions

? Hazel is a vegetarian because she wants to “minimize the number of deaths I am responsible for” (p. 28). Do you agree with her reasoning? If not, do you think there is an other/better reasoning for being a vegetarian?

? What is Hazel’s view of the afterlife (p. 167)? What is Augustus’s view (p. 168)? How does a person’s view of the afterlife affect how they live now?

? When Augustus dies, Hazel writes that “He died after a lengthy battle with human consciousness, a victim – as you will be – of the universe’s need to make and unmake all that is possible (p. 266).” What does she mean by this? Why would you say he died?

Relationship Questions

? What did you take-away from this book about how to treat someone with cancer? Are there clichés people say to you that you wish they’d stop saying?

? Was it wrong for Augustus and Hazel to have sex? Why or why not? Are there wrong things that become okay to do in extenuating circumstances?

? Monica breaks up with Isaac because she can’t handle his impending blindness. We later find out that Augustus stayed with his previous girlfriend because he didn’t want to break up with a girl who had cancer. Who made the better choice?

? Isaac’s definition of true love is that love is keeping the promise to love even if you didn’t understand the promise when you made it (pg. 60-61). Do you agree with his definition? If not, what is your definition of true love?

Questions, Comments, Suggestions? I would love to know how I can make Between the Lines more helpful for you. I would also love your suggestions for our next book! Please leave a comment below. Thanks! ~Sara

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